I’ve been riding ATVs and dirt bikes for a while, and a question I had when I first got my ATV was how often do I need to change the oil. I learned how long for my specific model, but thought I’d summarize how often you need to change the oil on most ATVs.
On average, every 6 months, 100 miles (160km), or 100 hours, whichever comes first. The oil also needs to be changed after the first month, 100 miles (160 km), or 20 operating hours, whichever comes first. Most ATVs recommend the same time frame but it can differ slightly by model.
In this article, I will explain the general procedure, how long it takes to change the oil on your ATV, and when you should change the oil on your ATV more often.
Different factors can make it necessary to change the oil on your ATV sooner. These include if you ride it in:
- Dusty conditions
ATV manufacturers recommend that if you ride your ATV in these conditions a lot you should change the oil about twice as often. Which is about every 50 hours, 3 months, or 500 miles (800km), whichever comes first.
There is an initial break-in period for an ATV when you first ride it. And it’s necessary to service it and change the oil sooner within the first month. But, this differs by brand. Here’s a table that shows how often you should change the oil for some of the most popular ATV models.
|ATV Make and Model||When to Change the Oil|
|Polaris – Sportsman||100 hours, 6 months, or 1000 miles (1600 km), whichever comes first.|
|Arctic Cat – Alterra||50 hours, 3 months, or 500 miles (800 km), whichever comes first.|
|Honda – Foreman Rubicon||100 hours, 12 months, or 1000 miles (1600 km), whichever comes first.|
ATV manufacturers recommend changing the oil filter at the same time as you change the oil. So, there are two broad steps to changing the oil on an ATV, 1) draining the current oil and 2) changing the oil filter. If you’ve ever changed the oil and oil filter on a car the process is exactly the same.
Begin by starting your ATV, and letting it idle for a few minutes to warm up the oil and make it runnier.
There is a nut at the base of the oil tank that blocks a hole where the oil can drain out. You begin by placing something underneath it to catch the oil as it comes out. A tray used for a paint roller, or a bucket works well.
Position the bucket or whatever you’re using underneath the nut – the position of the nut will be shown in a diagram in your user manual. Then loosen the nut until it opens and the oil starts pouring out. Usually, the nut will fall into the bucket and you’ll need to fish it out.
Then, wait for most of the oil to drain out. After it all drains out it will slowly drip. It’s up to you if you want to wait a bit longer. I generally only wait until it drips a little bit because the overall volume of oil that will come out if you wait for an hour or more is quite low. I estimate it’s somewhere in the range of a quarter of a cup every hour.
To get all of it out, and if you have time you can leave it overnight. Once it’s all drained out you then remove the oil filter.
The oil filter can be removed by hand but can be quite difficult. For that reason, there is an oil filter removing tool. The reason is that the oil filter can be hard to grip, and there isn’t much space around the oil filter where you can easily fit your hand.
The oil filter is simply unscrewed. After that, you screw the new one in, and you’re good to go. There are some special requirements about how tight you should screw the oil filter in. These are explained in the owner’s manual for your specific ATV make and model.
After that, you screw the nut back in at the base of the oil tank and pour in the new oil
I’ve changed an oil a few times and thought I’d cover what it costs to change the oil yourself. Here’s what you need to do, and how much it costs.
Overall, it costs $50 to $75 for everything you need to do an oil change yourself on an ATV. This includes:
- ATV engine oil – 1 to 3 quarts (about 1 to 3 liters) – $10 to $20 a quart.
- Replacement oil filter – $5 to $20 varies by make and model
- Oil filter wrench – $20.
Engine oil varies by how much you buy at a time. If you buy a lot you can get a cheaper price and pay about $10 per quart. But, if you buy it in 1-quart bottles you can pay a bit more, about $20 a quart.
The oil filters also vary based on the make and model. Some are more expensive than others.
There are additional things you may need such as a drip tray, and some rags. But, there are a few things around your home that can work well as a tray to collect the old oil. For example, a paint tray or a bucket.
The size of the oil tank does vary by make and model. But, are generally in the range of 1 quart to 3 quarts. Therefore, make sure what you’re using to catch the oil can hold that much oil, or have something else handy to quickly swap out if it gets full.
It takes quite a while to change the oil filter on your ATV, and so it can be better to have a mechanic do it. I looked around at the average price to have an ATV serviced, and how much it is to have the oil changed only, and here’s what I found.
On average, ATV mechanics will quote $100 for an oil change an ATV. Generally, a full service will be quoted at $200 or so. This can be worth it since it can take 30 minutes to 2 hours to perform an oil change and service yourself depending on your level of experience.
Many people recommend learning how to service your ATV yourself, as it isn’t too difficult and can end up saving you money in the long run. It’s also helpful when you run into a mechanical issue with your ATV because you will have a better idea of what’s wrong with it.
And can make minor repairs or adjustments yourself, rather than taking it into a shop.